January 27, 2014

A New Year’s Prayer

By Donald G. Mashburn

To my beloved family:

I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas and were able to welcome the New Year with a prayerful resolve to be thankful for all of God’s blessings and His provision for us over our lifetimes. Events of recent years have caused me, and all of you, I pray, to understand how uncertain this life is. We can control neither our departure from this life nor the major events affecting it.

As our extended family is painfully aware, accidents, lingering illnesses, sudden health reversals, and legal “hand grenades” from unexpected quarters can wreak their destruction without warning. We can, however, trust in the One who created us and Who controls our eternal destiny. It is my prayer that each of you will join me in making this new year of 2014 a year in which God’s will is manifested in each of our lives, and that with His help, we may be able to pray sincerely that God’s will be done in us so that we can say with the Apostle Paul, “We have the mind of Christ,” (I Cor. 2:16).

As New Year’s Day 2014 came, I was struggling to keep from coming down with the flu, contracted on a recent trip to New York. My unsuccessful battle forced on me an unscheduled time of reflection on many things, including the loss of loved ones who had come to be the entire world, and the purpose, strength, and the very meaning of the lives of those closest to them.

By January 10th, I was feeling better and had begun to write down some thoughts on family, departed loved ones, and what’s important in life. January 10th is also the birthday of my oldest sister, Nellie. I thought of her death when she was not yet 75, and it seemed she left us much too early. I also thought a long time on how much my sister’s life had meant to others, including me. I thought of how Nellie had given up so much to give to others.

Nellie never had much in the way of earthly comforts, but she never held back in giving what she could. Most often, she gave herself, her time and her labor and caring heart for so many others. I can’t forget how, when our mother died, Nellie – when she was only two months past her 14th birthday! – took over the care of a grieving father and six siblings, becoming family housekeeper, caregiver, surrogate mother, while still working in the fields when possible. Nellie would have been 89 now.

Thinking of those who gave to others recalled my recent trip to New York where I attended the memorial service for Frank Lapitino, who died suddenly at a young and vigorous 62. My family has known Frank’s widow since she was born Jana Nordquist, at about the same time as my oldest son, Donnie. For Frank’s memorial service, the church was packed. And once the many tributes, testimonials, and outpourings of heartfelt gratitude began, one could not help but be moved by just how much this man had given of himself to others.

I thought, too, of my beloved, departed wife Lee and how much she gave to so many. And how she gave, cared, and loved without looking for applause, plaudits, or praise. In thinking of these “Gifts from Heaven” – for I have no doubt their remarkable gifts were indeed Heaven-sent – I realized that God had blessed them to be examples of a very important truth: The real measure of a life is not how much we can get, but how much we can give.

These outstanding lives all exhibited the special characteristics of selflessness and obedience to the commandment of our Lord that we are to love one another as He has loved us. The caring and giving were all enhanced with the beauty and heavenly quality of being done without the expectation of anything being received in return. What inspiring legacies have been left by these remarkable people made in the image of our God!

There is such stark contrast between the lives and legacies of these dear departed “givers” and the lives of people who seem to measure success in how much they can get, even if it means getting what others have or have worked for. That observation takes in many who are in government for the wrong reasons, and, sadly, too many of them we have observed first hand. I have been sobered by the realization that otherwise good people can go astray in choosing “things” as life choices. And that realization has moved me to resolve to spend more time in Bible study, prayer, and deep reflection during this New Year.

During those times of meditation, I offered up many prayers for my family, which I love deeply, sincerely, and without condition. As a result of those meditations, I was moved to start writing down parts of prayers thoughts that seemed to be given to me for a reason. After praying for guidance and wisdom, I have included excerpts from those notes in the “Prayer” below.

In the special love I have for my family, I want to share the prayer below, titled, “A New Year’s Prayer.” I’m publishing an edited version of that prayer for readers of Sage Commentary.

Your loving Father and Grandfather.

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A New Year’s Prayer

Today, Lord, keep me from hurting or demeaning anyone.

Help me to love those who have wronged me.

Help me to say “No” to self, and “Yes” to You.

Where there burned memories of shame for acts of disobedience, Lord, let there now burn a passionate desire to do Your will.

Let any pridefulness or haughtiness in me wither from disuse.

Where there is ill will, let me spread kindness.

Where others have wronged me, let me respond with forgiveness.

Where others exhibit haughtiness toward me, let me respond with humility.

Keep me from giving mind space to thoughts that are contrary to your commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you,” (John 14:12).

Help me accept that I’m not responsible for the response of others to me, but I am responsible for loving them.

My sense of self-worth, Lord, comes from loving you and loving others.

Loving You, Lord, enables me to be kind to those who are unkind to me.

I know, Lord, that in loving you and loving others, I am emotionally complete and secure.

Let others see not my faults but Christ in me, Christ with me, Christ above all.

By my life and testimony let Christ be magnified and exalted.

Help me live this day for You, O Lord, so that all may see that I am yours and yours alone.

Lord, let my daily walk with you persuade others to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Only by loving others, Lord, can I reach beyond myself and touch others for Christ.

Help me to forget offenses against me, but let me never forget an act of kindness.

Lord, may Your will be done in the hearts of my family and me, to Your honor and glory.

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Selfishness, the Opposite of Humility

By Donald G. Mashburn

Many of seem to think we know what’s best for us. The brash among us act selfishly in their own interest, ignoring or never thinking of those who might be hurt by their brashness. The fearful or hypocritical, or perhaps those who lack the backbone of brashness, get someone else, sometimes even a lawyer, to do the unkind act for them.

Brash or hypocritical, both can do serious damage to the targets of their actions. The brash seemingly give little or no thought to the effect their selfish thoughtlessness has on the lives – and often the fortunes and names – of the victims of their selfish acts. The worst of their kind simply act according to their selfish wants, and ignore the potential for hurt. In some cases, the selfish may actually be unaware of the damage done by their thoughtless acts.

The fearful or hypocrites, on the other hand, often act deceitfully but insulate themselves from the results of their acts by cowering behind their “hired hurter,” such as a lawyer who may actually make things much worse by acting in his own self-interest with no concern for how many good people are hurt by his actions.

Selfish people may be driven by animosity or malice, and their intentions from the start are to hurt someone. Hypocrites may also want to do real damage to the intended victim, but they are often people who are too weak in character act for themselves, are just plain greedy, or want to hide their actions for other, usually unsavory, reasons.

So where do we fit in? Why do some get involved in disagreements, even to the degree that someone hires a lawyer to sue someone? Often the motivation is that the selfish types lack consideration for others. That is, they are lacking in compassion for others and take little thought of the potential pain their acts may cause. Their selfish acts produce results that are just the opposite of what humility produces.

Humility, real humility, is being willing to consider the other person, and his or her rights, viewpoint, and feelings. It means respecting his or her viewpoint and situation, but also trying to see how he or she feels about the same things.

Humility means respecting the other person, as a person. Someone with feelings, with rights, and with the ability to reason as to their rights, just as you have those same rights.

For the Believer, humility means we are willing to be what God wants us to be. And to do that, we must reach a point where we are willing to surrender our “position,” our “rights,” and our pride – in being right and in having our way in the outcomes of disagreements with others.

We have to come to some understanding of how God’s standard surpasses the standard we, according to our nature, set for ourselves. To do that, we must look to God’s word to see how He would have us relate to others.

Among our Lord’s rules for Christian living was one on our dealing with one another, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Luke 6:31, NKJV).

Then in Philippians 2:3-4, the Apostle Paul gives us more detailed instruction, when he wrote:

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (v. 3)

“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests. But also for the interests of others (v. 4).

We don’t naturally esteem others “better” than ourselves, not in our old nature, anyway. In general, we have learned to be naturally selfish since we were children. However, some of us, thank the Lord, were taught that kindness to, and consideration for, others reflected our character, and our parents and teachers taught us that good “character” was desirable and important.

And blessed are those who by the grace of God, and His gift of caring parents, had their character built of the solid bricks of honesty and truth, bonded by the cement of kindness.

For I have become convinced that a person – no one! – can be said to have “character,” if either honesty or kindness is absent.

Failure is neither fatal nor final.

Talent is from God, fame from man. The former is to be honed, the latter avoided.

How we play the hands we’re dealt is more important than the hands we get.

Hate cannot change anything for good; only love can do that.

Silence in the presence of wrong is even more wrong.

Hate darkens life, love lights its way.

A lie can’t travel on its own; it must be carried.

You can’t defeat the devil by condoning the actions of those who do his bidding.

There is no grade of “Incomplete” for forgiveness; you either pass or fail.

Life is kind of like baseball: Learn where you can play, then play harder than anyone else.

Failure is the tuition we pay to learn how to succeed.

Trust is the currency of both friendship and love.

Conceit is self-acquired; ability and humility are gifts from God.

Failures mark the boundaries of the path to success.

Inspiration is the breeze that fans talent into the flame of genius.

For everyone there’s a time to be happy, and the best time is now.

Praise with a strong voice; blame softly.

Maybe skunks and polecats were put here to teach us to mind our own business.

Politicians and polecats are more tolerable the less they show their natural tendencies.

Whoever claims to have character but doesn’t show kindness is short of both.

Courage is not a lack of fear, but doing the right thing in spite of fear.

Success is fluid and seems to flow naturally to places where sweat and inspiration are.

Self-worth most often is not related to net worth.

If genius and inspiration could be taught, it would no longer be genius and inspiration.

The appearance of cleanliness is a common problem shared by hogs and politicians.

Kindness is a flower that blooms in the seedbed of character.

Wisdom can come from unwise actions or God. The divine kind is far better.

Judging wrongly is an expensive way to learn to judge rightly.

Good comedians are scarce, but who needs them when we have the U. S. Senate?

We need a president whose idea of job creation is not bigger federal payrolls.

Most politicians would rather die than do hard thinking – and most of them do so.

It is good to forget a wrong, but never forget an act of kindness.